How big is the creator economy market? The answer to that question is not simple.
When you talk about any market size you have to look at the individual pieces that make up the whole puzzle. Content creators are at the center of the creator ecosystem but there are also platforms/tools that help them operate as a business and investors that fund these startups.
To get a clear answer on the market size of the creator economy, we first need to address the pieces that comprise it. So sit back and take a deep breath as we plunge head-first into the creator economy market size.
What’s the current creator economy market size?
The creator economy market size is currently estimated at $104.2 billion. Its growth has accelerated at an astounding rate, more than doubling its value since 2019.
Over time creators grew in numbers, polished their skills, found ways to monetize their content, and became solopreneurs. This expansion created space for creator economy startups to be born, offering platforms, tools, and services that enable creators to maximize their potential, both as businesses and as content creators.
How many startups are in the creator economy?
According to Crunchbase’s database, there are more than 300 creator economy startups that provide services through every step of the creator work cycle, from content creation to off-platform monetization to audience management.
In the beginning, creators didn’t have many choices in terms of the platforms they used to share content. YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook were the conglomerates that had taken over the Internet. Naturally, creators gravitated to these platforms the most.
As the creators’ needs changed, more creator platforms started popping up. Content creation tools, streaming platforms, sponsorship marketplaces, other social media platforms, selling services, big crowdfunding platforms, etc. They offered better tools and services than the tech giants that dominated the space, allowing creators to diversify their online presence and revenue streams.
Valuation of creator economy startups
Creator economy startups have attracted major investments, especially in the last 2 years. In 2021, the total valuation of creator economy startups was $5 billion, with Q2 being the record for investments, totaling $1.7 billion.
Even though we’re experiencing a drop in funding, huge funding rounds happened in Q1 of 2022, totaling $1 billion. Some of the biggest are :
- Automattic (parent company of WordPress and Tumblr) – $859 million total funding, led by BlackRock, Wellington, and others;
- Spotter (financial service for creators) – $755 million total funding, led by SoftBank;
- Kajabi (courses, memberships, and classes) – $550 million total funding, led by Tiger Global Management;
- MasterClass (online classes from celebrities) – $475 million total funding, led by Fidelity;
- OpenSea (marketplace for non-fungible tokens – NFTs) – $425 million total funding, led by Paradigm and Coatue.
There are 23 unicorns amongst creator economy startups, meaning 23 startups reached or surpassed the $1 billion mark. Of those 23, 14 of them became unicorns this year. All of the startups mentioned above are also unicorns.
I’ve talked in-depth and in detail about creator economy startups and funding before, you can check it out if you’re interested + you can get our Creator Economy Database with 300+ startups for free.
How many creators are in the creator economy?
From amateur to full-time creators, from nano to mega-creators, there are an estimated 200 million creators in the creator economy. That’s four times more than the last estimated number of 50 million.
To give a clear definition of what a creator is, it’s a person who uses their influence, skills, and creativity to amass an audience and monetize it. Because there are so many creators in the space, there are multiple ways in which you can divide them.
For example, by niche (beauty, gaming, fitness, etc.), by size (nano-creators, micro-creators, macro-creators, etc.), or by the platform they use (YouTube, Instagram, Tiktok creators, etc.). We’re going to examine them by platforms and see which ones are the most popular amongst them.
Number of creators by platform
It’s hard to determine the specific number of creators by platform because there are far too many platforms at this point. But we can always analyze the biggest social media platforms in the space. Some are very open about their stats while others keep quiet.
As of January 2022, there are 37 million YouTube channels. Not to be confused with the number of users, which is a lot bigger, 2 billion to be exact. Keep in mind that some creators have multiple YouTube channels where they upload different content.
There are more than 600 channels that have 10 million followers. Some, like the channels in this chart, have much more than that. There are also more than 23.000 channels that have more than 1 million followers. Insane numbers, right?
Instagram is one of the most popular platforms amongst creators. It’s a visual platform so creators, businesses, and users alike are drawn to it.
As for the numbers, up until recently, Instagram has been wary of sharing statistics about creators and influencers. Plus, it’s hard to determine a specific number when there are many Instagram creators whose accounts are inauthentic and fraudulent.
However, we can always estimate, and it’s estimated that there are anywhere between 20,000 and 37 million creators worldwide, from all niches and sizes.
The biggest Instagram influencers have massive followings. I’m talking hundreds of millions of followers. The top spot went to Christiano Ronaldo, who amassed a following of more than 400 million.
The title of the fastest-growing platform of all social media platforms has to go to Tiktok. With the highest overall engagement rate and the most downloaded app of 2020 and 2021, it’s no surprise that creators took it and ran with it.
Tiktok, just like Instagram, is not very open to sharing stats about its creators. But the estimated number of creators is 3.1 million.
Although the numbers are lower than Instagram, the biggest Tiktok creators are not short on following, with Charli D’Amelio taking the #1 spot with 141.2 million followers.
The most popular streaming platform is undoubtedly Twitch. Creators, especially gamers took to it like fish to water, amassing millions of views on a monthly basis. Twitch saw incredible growth during the Pandemic and now has more than 9 million monthly active streamers.
The 5 biggest Twitch streamers by following are Ninja (16.9 million), Tfue (10.7 million), Auronplay (10 million), Rubius (9.8 million), and shroud (9.5 million).
Patreon is a subscription-based crowdfunding platform and is one of the most used monetization platforms by creators. The platform currently hosts more than 250.000 creators.
Patreon is a multimedia platform so creators aren’t restricted by the type and format of their content. Because it’s a subscription-based service, monetization is a lot easier. And it goes great in cahoots with multiple platforms, shifting the most loyal fans from a platform where they get free content to a platform where creators can monetize them.
This makes Patreon appealing to creators of all sizes and niches.
How much money do creators make?
When you think of the biggest creators and influencers, the answer to this question would be, a lot. Influencers are practically millionaires. But that’s only the top 1%.
The majority of creators don’t make nearly as much because they don’t have millions of followers. Actually, of the total 200 million creators only 2 million of them have 1 million followers or more.
The biggest category of creators is the Semi-Pro (nano-influencers) , comprising of 139 million creators, followed by Pro (41 million), Recreational (23 million), and Expert & Expert+ (2 million each).
With this, the reality of monetization is a lot different.
These stats by Linktree had people shook, myself included. The fact that 46% of full-time creators make less than $1000 annually is a slap in the face – it’s not easy for creators to earn money.
The size of the following is not the only thing that determines how much a creator makes. Different platforms have different types of revenue share. The common ground they share is that to make a substantial amount of money and make a living solely off of advertising revenue, you need an active audience of 1 million.
Social platforms need to provide multiple (and easier) monetization tools, and creators need to learn how to diversify their revenue streams.
Now let’s see how much the top creators actually make:
- YouTube’s top 10 creators’ earnings as of 2022 are a total of $698 million, the top 5 being Justin Bieber ($226 million), Jeffree Star ($200M), Blippi ($40 million), PewDiePie ($40 million), and Logan Paul ($35 million).
- This is how much Instagram’s top 5 creators charge per post in 2022 – Christiano Ronaldo ($880k-$1 million), Kylie Jenner ($674k-$1 million), Leo Messi ($652k-$1 million), Selena Gomez ($636k-$1 million), Dwayne Johnson ($628k-$1 million).
- Top 5 highest-earning Tiktokers – Charli D’Amelio ($17.5 million), Dixie D’Amelio ($10 million), Addison Rae ($8.5 million), Bella Poarch ($5 million), Josh Richards ($5 million).
Other earning stats:
- Patreon pays out $1 billion annually to its 250k+ creators;
- OnlyFans pays out more than $1 billion annually to its 1 million+ creators;
- Stripe paid out a total of $10 billion to its creators in 2021;
- Cameo paid out a total of $75 million to its creators in 2020.
The role of Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing has become a cultural phenomenon, a staple in marketing strategies, and a loyal sidekick to the creator economy. As more brands leveraged influencer marketing to propel their campaigns, a billion-dollar industry was born.
It took only 5 years for the influencer marketing market to go from $1.7 billion to $13.8 billion. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, the market is expected to rise to $16.4 billion in 2022. Its growth goes side-by-side with the growth of the creator economy, with the creator economy market being worth $36.2 million in 2016 and growing to $104.2 billion in 2021.
This correlates to the birth of other platforms, more creators joining the space, short-form videos becoming the main content format, and the impact of the global Pandemic, thus increasing social media activity and screen time.
The expansion of the creator economy market is a wonderful thing for everyone in it. We can expect creators and content makers to become community builders, set industry trends, own platforms, and transform into full-fledged businesses.
There will also be more platforms that support creators, providing better ways to create an engaged community, reach their target audience, improve content monetization, and share sponsored content that benefits creators and brands alike.
Although funding has slowed down and is unpredictable at the moment, as long as investors recognize the potential in the creator space, it will continue to go up in the upcoming years.